Community Part 1 - Love and Forgiveness
Topic: Forgiveness Passage: Ephesians 4:30–5:2
The Spirit filled church has Spirit filled relationships. The Holy Spirit radically transforms our attitudes and responses to each other and takes them to a whole new realm of love, and care, and sympathy, and kindness. When we are filled with the Spirit we fellowship with one another, we bear one another’s burden’s, we pray for one another, we are subject to one another, we rejoice and we sorrow with one another, we speak to one another in songs and hymns and spiritual songs, we forgive one another and we love one another. We enjoy one another and appreciate each other. The Spirit filled church is a church where these things are going on.
However, we can carry over relationship patterns from our old self into the church. We can attack and tear down each other, and hold onto grudges against one another, instead of walking in this Spirit filled demeanor of love, and forbearance, and forgiveness with each other. Paul warns us against living with each other in ways that are not aligned with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:30 – 5:1 “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander, be put away from you, along will all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, FORGIVING each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you”. “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children and WALK IN LOVE, just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us….”
Forgiveness and love are at the very foundation of Spirit filled relationships with each other. Love and Forgiveness are the very core qualities of a Spirit filled church. We love AND we forgive. “Forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you….”.
Our treatment of each other all flows out of HOW we have been treated by God. You are beloved children of God. Christ also loved you and gave himself for you. THAT’S HOW YOU TREAT OTHERS. God has forgiven you in Christ. All your dark and hidden sins, all your irritating qualities, all your offensive attitudes. God forgave you freely and totally in Christ. THAT IS HOW YOU TREAT OTHERS.
And the power for this is the Holy Spirit. God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5 The same love that God has for YOU, has been poured into your heart for OTHERS. The same capacity to forgive others has been poured into your heart by the Holy Spirit.
That is why things like anger, faultfinding, grudges, bitterness, fighting, grieve the Holy Spirit. The Spirit Filled Church is a place where people to a substantial degree have set aside these things, and are operating in forgiveness and love. There may be things that need to be talked through and worked through. There are times where people need to be corrected. But the atmosphere of life in the church is forgiveness and love.
There is no way the Spirit will dwell in fullness among us if we are irked, hurt, mad, offended, and upset at each other, or filled with judgmental thoughts about each other. John said, “if we love one another God abides in us”, And “the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him”.
There is nothing that hinders the flow of the Holy Spirit, like stewing over offenses, harboring resentment, hurt feelings, hate, or anger. There is nothing that so opens the floodgates of the Holy Spirit’s fullness like genuine love and forgiveness. That’s true in each of our lives and in the life of the church.
AB Simpson wrote, “We must stand right with all His children, and meet in the body of Christ in the sweetest, fullest fellowship, IF we would keep perfect communion with Christ himself. Sometimes we will find that an altered attitude to ONE CHRISTIAN will bring us into the flood-tides of the Holy Spirit (Ghost). …. When you are separated from even one other member of the Lord’s body, you hinder the freedom of his love and power flowing through every organic part”.
Now we would probably all agree with this in theory, but it can be a real challenge to begin living this way in reality.
Let me give you a couple of examples. I know a very dear Christian gal who started a small on-line business with another believer. This other person unfairly accused her of not doing enough, and forced her out of the partnership, and she lost her business and all the money she had put into it. How do you get beyond that? Do you just decide I’m never going back to church?
I also heard of a Christian woman in another city who started a prayer and worship night and it really took off and was growing. A close Christian friend of hers helped her lead this group and was a key person there. But before long this person who had prayed with her, and worked with her, and worshiped with her, left and started another group and took most of the people along, and basically ruined the original group. How do we get over stuff like that? How do we keep wounds from poisoning our spirits?
How do you break the power of being mistreated and all the natural human feelings of hurt and anger that go with it? (Even in the church!) How do you break the power of self pity? How do you keep living in righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit?
First: We must know that God calls us to something MUCH higher than natural reactions. We are called to a kingdom response, a Spirit filled response. We are saints!!– forgive as you have been forgiven and love and you have been loved.
Second: We must know that IF we chose to respond with our old nature, we grieve and quench the Spirit and we end up in a kind of spiritual bondage. Our sense of joy is gone. Our sense of the Lord’s presence is gone. The Spirit isn’t working through us like he was. It is a chore to go to church, to pray. We find ourselves locked into emotions and feelings that are very painful and damaging!
Third: Knowing these things... You chose the path of love and forgiveness. You start by saying out loud, “Lord, I bless so and so. I forgive them. I release them from my judgment. I love them in Jesus name. (May be by faith) And then you pray for them. “God bless this person, bless their family, bless their ministry, help them in their problems and needs and struggles, meet their financial needs.” This is how you get free. This is how you experience the fullness of the Spirit again.
Michael Youssef said. “Hatred brings all kinds of pain into our lives. Even physical illness comes from hatred. What does the person who is the object of your hate, make you to be? A slave to that person. And that is why love liberates you from that slavery. Love gives you power over such slavery. Love instills control over your emotions. Love makes you a king or a queen. Love makes you reign supreme as a monarch over your emotions.
“Forty one years ago God showed that every time a person hurt me or caused me pain I began to pray, “Lord give me an opportunity to show mercy to that person, to show kindness to that person”. I had a person who literally tried to destroy my future and I prayed that prayer and God gave me an opportunity to do something of great kindness to that person. And you know that’s going to do more for your healing and set you free more than anything in the world”.
Love and forgiveness are so powerful because they bring you back into the filling of the Holy Spirit. If you have put out the fire of the Holy Spirit, that fire will be burning again. If you have grieved the Holy Spirit, his joy will start flowing in you again. If you hate someone you become their slave, but love makes you the freest person in the world.
Forgiveness does not mean that you approve of what they have done, or that you condone sin. It some cases it may change the relationship. But still you have a heart full of love and forgiveness. Don’t listen to the voices in your head that call you to hatred. Don’t listen to the counsel of friends who recommend hate and revenge. People who give this kind of counsel may have sympathy for you but they don’t have the mind of the Spirit. I’ve seen that do so much spiritual damage.
You may say I don’t hate anyone! I am just irked that they are not doing their fair share, I’m just annoyed that they are not at tough as I am, I am just perturbed that they won’t sacrifice like me. Or I’m just hurt that they left me out, or I’m offended, by what this person said, or what that person did, but I don’t really hate anyone. So I don’t really have a problem.
Well Jesus dealt with that kind of thinking in Matthew 5. “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother, shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good for nothing’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool’, shall be guilty enough to go into the fire of hell’.
We often underestimate the spiritual danger of some of the thoughts toward others that we allow to linger in our mind and hearts. ANY kind of response to one another that does not show love and forgiveness is FAR from what God wants.
Look at how Paul dealt with mistreatment, even from within the body of Christ. He was in prison and some used that as an opportunity to do him harm.
“Now I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Some indeed, preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The later do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, but thinking they will afflict me in my imprisonment (supposing they are making my bondage more bitter and my chains more galling).”
What could be meaner than trying to make Paul’s already miserable situation more miserable! What can be lower, than hurting someone when in prison. And what can be worse that having that done, by a preacher? - or by other Christians! How does Paul respond? He tells us.
“What then? (What am I going to do about this? What is my response going to be to people who are trying to make my being in prison more painful?) Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I WILL REJOICE”…. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death”.
Where is the nursing of bitterness and hurt feelings? Where is the self pity? Where is the indignation! Where is the “how could they do this to me?” attitude? IT’S JUST NOT THERE! He is free from all that!! Totally free!
Paul was not naive. He knew what was being done to him, what was being said. But even though he is aware of the wrong done to him, it does not burden him. He doesn’t become chained to it.
Why is he not in bondage to what others are doing? Three things. First: He harbors no grudge or resentment to them. That’s not the way he thinks and not the way he talks! He chooses to focus on the good that these people are doing! In some way they are proclaiming Jesus, and he rejoices in that.
Second: He has such complete faith in God’s plans for him, that he has NO THOUGHT that any body can really hurt him. It really frees you to love and forgive people, if you believe that God is bigger than other people and nothing can hinder his plan and purpose for your life. He said, “This will turn out for my deliverance. This will turn out for my good and the advancement of the gospel.”
Third: His concern is that Christ being honored, not his own game plan, not about himself looking good, not his safety. Happiness to him was that Christ would be honored in his body “whether by life or by death”. This is really big. If you are concerned about God getting glorified, more than your own agenda, it frees you to overlook things that cause you hardship, or loss, because your attitude is, if only Christ is honored all is well with me.
Sometime ago, I had to go talk to someone that I had great concerns about where they were going spiritually, I didn’t want to do it, but at great emotional cost and cost of time I talked to this person. The response was not what I hoped for and some things were said by this person that really disappointed me and changed things in a direction I did not want them to go. And for a couple of days it was like this weight was upon me, and I was tempted to think and rethink what was said, and how much I would really like to correct this person. But the thing that set me free and released me back into joy and the Holy Spirit, was just saying, “Lord I bless this person, I love this person, I forgive them. Bless their family, their work, their ministry”. It was like, OK I am happy again.
I think there is a lot of love and forgiveness for one another here in this church. But we still need to excel at these things. If we want to be a church filled with the power and joy of the Holy Spirit, we need to walk in love and forgiveness, and continue to walk in love and forgiveness.